Archive for September 13th, 2012
By Tristan Scott of the Missoulian:
POLSON – One after another, members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes emerged from Eagle Bank on Wednesday with a broad smile and a thick envelope.
“I’m getting a white Impala tomorrow,” said an elated Barbara Finley, who is one of approximately 7,850 enrolled members who received checks for $10,000 in the mail on Wednesday morning as about half of a $150 million settlement with the United States government was distributed across the Flathead Indian Reservation.
The dispersal is part of a $1 billion settlement in a lawsuit initially filed by the Nez Perce Tribe being paid out to 44 tribes across the nation for mismanaged assets and natural resources held in trust by the government for the tribes.
Known as the “Salazar settlement,” it is separate from the Cobell lawsuit that the federal government settled for $3.4 billion.
The Salazar settlement was for mismanagement of assets and natural resources held by the tribes as a whole, and the $150 million settlement with the CSKT appears to be one of the largest.
“My trailer’s paid off as of today,” said Randy Milliron.
Members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council are still discussing what to do with the remaining balance of the $150 million, which has not automatically gone into the general fund. Among the options being considered are elder care, education, economic development, language and culture preservation, and land acquisition.
But some tribal members are actively campaigning to have the full amount distributed to individuals, and on Wednesday morning, as a long line snaked out of the tribally owned Eagle Bank in Polson, which issued the checks, and petitions to the Bureau of Indian Affairs circulated through the crowd.
“They come out of the bank and you can see the relief on their face. They haven’t felt that way in a long time,” said Revan Rogers, who wore a “100 percent” sticker, and by noon had gathered several hundred signatures supporting full dispersal of the settlement. “This actually helps the membership. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime windfall.”
While the council has made no decision on what to do with the money, Rogers said placing it into a general fund would be misguided, calling it a “black hole.” In June she organized a group called the People’s Voice, and hopes that with enough signatures the BIA will override the council’s resolution.
“It’s overwhelming. The people want their money,” she said. “This is a new beginning for them. It may be as simple as a new washer and dryer, and a refrigerator. But it’s a new beginning.”